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A New Study Found That Bacteria In A Child's Gut Predicts Obesity And Longevity

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A young girl putting her finger against her cheek as a plate of strawberries sits in front of her. The changes in microbiota in the gut predicts childhood obesity as well as the lifespan. UGYEN TENZIN/SWNS TALKER

A toddler’s gut bacteria could predict whether they will be overweight by the time they reach the age of five, a new study reveals on

The makeup of the gut microbiota grows and changes in the first few months and years of life.

A young girl putting her finger against her cheek as a plate of strawberries sits in front of her. The changes in microbiota in the gut predicts childhood obesity as well as the lifespan. UGYEN TENZIN/SWNS TALKER

Gut microbiota are the microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and viruses that live in the gut.

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Disruption to its development is linked with conditions in later life, including inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes, and childhood obesity.

The study revealed that infants who had more of the bacteria Firmicutes than the bacteria Bacteroidetes in their gut were more likely to be overweight by the age of five.

Study author Mr. Gaël Toubon, a Ph.D. student at Inserm, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, said: “The reason these gut bacteria affect weight is that they regulate how much fat we absorb.”

“Children with a higher ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes will absorb more calories and be more likely to gain weight.”

The study investigated how the gut microbiota of children at three and a half years was linked to their BMI at five years old and how their BMI changed between the age of two and five.

BMI is a measure of whether a person is a healthy weight for their height, meaning the higher the BMI the more overweight a person often is.

To investigate how bacteria in the gut can predict future BMI, researchers looked at data from two French national studies.

The first was EPIPAGE2, a national study conducted in all maternity and neonatal units in France in 2011. In this data set they studied 143 infants who were born prematurely.

The second was ELFE, which tracked the lives of 18,000 children born in metropolitan France in 2011. The team took the data from 369 full-term infants from this study.

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When each child reached three and a half years old the researchers collected stool samples.

A couple of toddlers playing with their toys at the doctor’s office. A team found that six other specific types of bacteria were very usefule to predict a child’s BMI. YAN KRUKAU/SWNS TALKER

The team also found that six other specific types of gut bacteria were very useful at predicting a five-year-old’s BMI.

“The gut microbiota has been found to influence various aspects of health, including metabolism, immune function, and energy regulation,” said Dr. Glen Tesfu, a general practitioner based in London.

Those who had a greater abundance of the bacteria categories Eubacterium hallii group, Fusicatenibacter, and Eubacterium ventriosum group, had a greater risk of being overweight by the age of five.

On the flip side, higher numbers of the bacteria Eggerthella, Colidextribacter, and Ruminococcaceae CAG-352 were associated with a lower BMI score by the age of five.

Some types of bacteria were also linked with changes in BMI between the ages of two and five, indicating that some bacteria can speed up the progression.

“It is important to monitor the types of bacteria being found in the stool andurine samples. The presence of certain types of bacteria can indicate animbalance in gut flora or dysbiosis, which can lead to obesity,” said Dr. Leah Alexander, a pediatrician and medical consultant at The Baby Swing based in New Jersey.

The team also found that both the predicted production of steroid hormones and biotin, a B vitamin involved in a wide range of metabolic processes, were associated with lower BMI at the age of five.

Mr. Toubon said: “These findings suggest that what matters with the gut microbiota is not only a question of which bacteria are involved, but also what they are doing.”

What is more, being born prematurely made no difference to later BMI.

Mr. Toubon added: “The gut microbiota is emerging as an important early-life factor able to influence weight gain in childhood and later life.

“Our findings reveal how an imbalance in distinct bacterial groups may play an important role in the development of obesity.

“Further research is needed to drill down into the specific bacterial species that influence risk and protection and to better understand when the switch to an obesity favorable gut microbiota may take place, and therefore the right timing for possible interventions.”

The study is being presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Dublin, Ireland, which is running from May 17 to 20.

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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